Having grown up in the 90s I was of the many who ware enthralled by the games id Software unleashed onto the market and back then games stuck around for a while. The first time I played Wolfenstein was in school in our computer labs that were running DOS. Doom however felt, looked and played so much better when we played it other games were rendered obsolete but alas I was too young fully enjoy the experience. I was a console kid and had I not been in primary school in Kuwait where their computing facilities were leaps and bounds ahead of those in Croatia at the time I would have easily missed out as I was firmly participating in the console wars under the Sega banner. That does not be little the impact that the Doom games had globally and not just in the gaming world or the fun I had playing it and revisiting it later in life.
Masters of Doom is an in-depth post mortem of one of the best eras in gaming and pop culture and its author, David Kushner, really crafted a gripping read from beginning to end. To the average gamer today in their 20s Doom may not have the relevancy or aura that it holds for those in their 30’s and 40’s but their pioneering effort and innovations in programing and game design reverberate until today. Masters of Doom takes the reader into the id Software origins story from the childhoods of its prominent cofounders to the key role players that would join the ranks as they set forth on their journey to make history and millions. John Romero & John Carmack did not just make a great game back when PC gaming was still not considering the best in gaming, before they were even commonplace to be found in most peoples homes these two young programmers would create the demand.
David walks you through how John Romero‘s passion for games started in his youth and how he was fortunate enough to get a leg up back in the frontier age of game design then skipping a bit to Carmack‘s high intelligence and almost genius like abilities to bring his ideas to reality while sacrificing his social skills to do so. The narrative is weaved through interviews and first hand accounts and the descriptions are vivid so that I see the scenes playing through as I listen to the audiobook. Narrated by Will Wheaton (StarTrek, Big Bang Theory, Eureka) you are in for at read but even the paperback is a page-turner for anyone from that era and is into PC gaming or First Person Shooters. Doom created the modding community as we know it today, Carmack was the OG programmer who wanted others to be able to build on top of his software and fought against patents. But it is not just the awesome trivia soaked pages that make this book a great read but the context to what was happening in the personal lives of these people shows how success is not always what it is cracked up to be for all involved.
For RPG fans of Call of Cthulhu and Age of Empires players may not be aware that Sandy Petersen worked on Doom and for id Software during its heyday and his experience and voyage with the company is well chronicled and can only leave the reader respecting Sandy’s contribution to gaming as whole that much more. How Trent from Nine Inch Nails got roped into doing scores and soundtracks after playing Doom on tour to Bill Gates using Doom to push Windows are but a few of the gems shared in Masters of Doom. I cannot recommend this book enough to anybody who is a fan of id Software game, Doom as a series or just want to know more about the history of PC gaming you will not be bored as some of the things that happen read like bestselling fiction but it is all real so cock back the shotgun, turn up the metal and prepare to revisit carnage .
David Kushner appreciates the subjects he writes about and is no stranger to gaming having written a biography on Dungeons & Dragons to the story of Grand Theft Auto handles it with care. The one slight I must say is that just like many documentarians cannot remain objective with Oasis this book has you walking away feeling most of the blame can fall on Romero’s shoulders. Personally, as somebody who has invested time in researching and watching documentaries I knew half of the things going in but still found out a lot. This book gets a 9 out of 10.